Lulworth Skipper (Thymelicus acteon)

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2016 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

21122_male_Var_28Jun10 33687_male_Var_12Jul13 35028_male_Var_30May14
35440_male_Var_18Jun14 16399_female_Var_21Jun09 25446_female_Var_07Jun11
20827_male_Var_16Jun10 33018_male_Var_20Jun13  

Another misnamed butterfly, although there is some justification for the English name, as it is still found around the Lulworth area on the Dorset coast, even though it is widespread across Europe. Acteon is not particularly common in France, and could easily be missed because of its similar appearance to the Small Skipper (T. sylvestris) or the Essex Skipper (T. lineola), especially the male acteon in which the upf horseshoe-shaped

orange band is not so well marked. This orange band is 100% characteristic

of acteon and more pronounced in the female.

The sexes can be differentiated by the body length, much longer in the male - see above - and the upf sex brand (black streak) which only the male has, as well as the strength of the orange band as noted earlier. I found, much to my surprise, that 90% of the acteon photographs I have taken are of females.

ref sex


alt. m
21122 M

a fresh male, showing how faint the upf orange band is, even when fresh.

33687 M a rather dark male, the sex brand being visible, although the orange band is quite difficult to make out. 680
35028 M a rather dark male, the pale horseshoe mark being barely visible. The sex brand is almost concealed. 20
35440 M quite a bright fresh male, with the sex brand being unusually conspicuous. There are serious doubts as to whether this is acteon. The upf ground colour is perhaps just too light, whereas acteon is usually browner, and the absence of even a pale orange horseshoe is probably definitive, even allowing for the fact that this feature can occasionally be very pale and hard to discern. The sex brand is just too strong for lineola, so it is between acteon and sylvestris. The end of the antennal club appears black, although this may or may not be a pointer against sylvestris (where the underside of the club is brown), as the underside cannot be clearly seen. The principal clue, leading me to put it on the acteon page, is the body length, where the acteon male's body length significantly extends beyond the hindwing; I find that the body length of sylvestris can extend past the hindwing, but not to the same extent as acteon. On balance there are more reasons why it is not acteon, than not sylvestris, but I will leave it on this page temporarily to elicit comment. Unusually, there seem to be rather more photographs of female acteon than males on the internet, perhaps because the female acteon is more instantly recognisable as such.  220
16399 F

I originally thought this was a male based on the abdominal hair tuft, even though the upf orange band seemed more pronounced than that shown in T&L for a male. However, the absence of a sex brand and the shorter body length, as well as the strong orange band, clearly indicate female. The apparent hair tuft at the end of the abdomen turns out to be a red herring.

25446 F a female, for much the same reasons as 16399. 20
20827 M a male, although difficult to tell from the underside alone. The acteon underside is very similar to sylvestris and lineola. 10
33018 M a male, taking salts from the ground and depositing a globule of liquid from the abdomen from time to time. From the underside alone, it is perhaps impossible to distinguish between the three Thymelicus species. 560